Adam and Emma cover “Drinkin’ in the Morning” by Trampled By Turtles

EDIT: A few days after I wrote the post below, I was able to find the tiniest scrap of audio at the end of one of the recordings where I confirmed the two performers’ names. I’ve obviously lost the recording where I spoke to them about their other details, but at least one small piece of this mystery is solved.

Busk-Chino-1.Still002Every so often, I’m terrible at recording buskers. Particularly if I’m feeling harried or distracted, I’ll make some fairly baffling mistakes. I’ll forget to turn on my microphone, for instance. Or I’ll get in a position where the light is constantly changing, blowing out the white levels. Sometimes I’ll even forget the very basics, like saying the performers’ names a few times, having them spell it, or asking where I can find more of their content so people who like them can get in touch.

While most of my mistakes come one at a time, every so often I’ll be looking at a video I took and realize I’ve created a perfect storm of embarrassing incompetence. This is one such video. Continue reading

Busk Break: The Asheville Waits Band covers “Jockey Full of Bourbon”

The Asheville Waits Band in early 2012.

The Asheville Waits Band in early 2012.

Vocalist/guitarist Mark Conti and bassist Christian Ferri — both members of the Asheville Waits Band (a Tom Waits cover band) — perform “Singapore” from the album Rain Dogs in front of the Iron sculpture.

 

This video was originally recorded on a very windy day in early January, 2012.

 

 

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Busk Break: The Asheville Waits Band covers “Singapore”

BUSK-AshevilleWaitsBandVocalist/guitarist Mark Conti and bassist Christian Ferri — both members of the Asheville Waits Band (a Tom Waits cover band) — perform “Singapore” from the album Rain Dogs in front of the Iron sculpture.

 

This video was originally recorded on a very windy day in early January, 2012.

 

 

Continue reading

Aaron Basskin covers “If I Only Had a Brain”

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Busker Aaron Baskin performing in Asheville.

Local busker Aaron Basskin performs his version of a song almost everyone in the English-speaking world can at least hum along to: “If I Only Had a Brain” by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, written for the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz. Continue reading

The Gypsy Swingers perform “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me”

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Sean Mabe, Wendi Loomis and Mario Piccolo playing as The Gypsy Swingers.

In most other cities, you’d never see musicians like clarinet player Wendi Loomis and guitarists Mario Piccolo and Sean Mabe busking for tips. You’d only see them performing in night clubs and upscale bars as the evening’s featured entertainment. And, as the Gypsy Swingers (or, in a slightly different arrangement as the Red Hot Sugar Babies), that’s generally how you’d encounter them as well. But the lure of playing for tips in the height of Asheville’s tourist season brings even the professionals out for a piece of the busking action.

Here, the trio performs “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me,” a jazzy, bluesy classic written nearly a century ago. Continue reading

Mike Gray covers “Everybody Ought To Treat A Stranger Right” on his Go-Box

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Mike Gray takes a smoke break from playing his Go-Box.

It’s a rare enough thing to harness one’s passion and dedication long enough to master any musical instrument. But to create a musical instrument, develop techniques for playing it, and then become a master of that instrument … it’s practically the stuff of musical legend. But for Austin-based musician Mike Gray, it was just something to do with a broken guitar.

Here, Gray performs the Blind Willie Johnson tune “Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right” near the Grove Arcade earlier this year. Continue reading

Banjo Ben Shirley plays “Sugar Hill”

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Banjo Ben Shirley performing in front of the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC.

In the muggy heat after a week of rain, Richmond, VA-based busker Banjo Ben Shirley performs the traditional tune “Sugar Hill” in front of the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC. You may know him from his previous appearances on Busk Break with Abby the Spoon Lady, but he’s not exactly a slouch when it comes to solo performance. With a clear voice, a tambourine on his foot keeping time, and no shortage of talent, there’s a lot to like in his take on a classic tune. Continue reading

Banjo Ben Shirley performs “Feast Here Tonight”

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Banjo Ben Shirley performing near the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC.

“I’m going to play this song because your fuzzy microphone cover reminds me of a rabbit,” Ben Shirley told me as he warmed up. After a moment, he added, “It was on the Three Pickers record, so this can be a tribute to Doc and Earl passing this year.”

I first met “Banjo Ben” Shirley last year, when he came through town with Abby “The Spoon Lady” Roach on their never-ending busking tour. Continue reading

Caster covers “Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me”

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Caster performs the Bo Carter tune “Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me” in front of the Iron Sculpture in downtown Asheville, NC.

Recently unearthed from the Busk Break archives, Caster covers this classic “dirty blues” tune in 2011!

At the time of this recording, banjo-playing busker Caster had yet to write a song he felt comfortable playing in front of a camera. So I asked him, “Do you have a cover that you feel you really love? A song that you’ve truly made your own?”

He paused, stroked his thin chin beard, and thought. Then with a smile that seemed to indicate he was a little embarrassed, he said “I’ve become rather attached to a song called ‘Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me'”
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The Archaic return to Busk Break with a trio of tunes

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The Archaic perform near Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville, NC.

It’s hard not to have a hint of prejudice when you encounter a guitar-and-banjo busking duo. Almost certainly, you’ll prepare yourself to hear some nasal-pitched bluegrass tune, or maybe some gritty, jazzed-up novelty blues song. What you probably won’t expect is to hear music that owes as much to Marcus Mumford and Thom Yorke as it does to Earl Scruggs or Lawrence Marrero. That’s exactly what makes The Archaic so interesting. Continue reading